COVID-19’s Effects on Student-Athletes

The outbreak of COVID-19 put sports and exercise on indefinite hold. Gyms, pools, fitness studios, and stadiums were closed for months. With school now virtual, students could neither work out at their school gyms nor train with their teams. Practices and camps were canceled. Many athletes began to exercise at home or outdoors to keep fit, going for a run or playing soccer in their backyard. 

Still, it hasn’t been the same. The change in routine has wreaked mental and psychological consequences on athletes. Sports not only keeps an athlete’s body in shape, but it also keeps the mind in shape too. Studies show that physical activity leads to better academic performance. It increases blood flow to the brain and activates chemicals that boost mood and work performance. Sports also help athletes reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. They improve mood and quality of sleep. 

Furthermore, team sports help athletes develop social and leadership skills, teamwork, communication, decision making, and respect. Covid 19's cessation of these activities has increased stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation among student-athletes since all the physical activity is being done alone. And not having the competitiveness factor leads to some athletes losing motivation to work hard.  

After a long break from organized sports, athletes need to be mentally and physically prepared to return to intense physical activity. Athletes who stopped working out need to remember to slowly build up their stamina for activity. Stretch daily to loosen muscles and build in cooldown time after workouts. Make sure to have good eating habits while training. As you focus on a regular routine, you can increase the number of days you work out depending on how your body feels.

Coronavirus’s transformation of the sports landscape will also take getting used to psychologically, as well. Sports events limiting or completely getting rid of spectators can be a downside for athletes who enjoy having family and friends cheering them on or depend upon that energy to perform. Start dates for sports like football and wrestling are delayed and seasons are shorter, which is challenging for athletes that need more time to get into their best playing abilities. Players are no longer able to sit with teammates on the sidelines since everyone must be six feet apart when not playing and that can make it harder to bond with teammates. 

So even though many sports are starting up again, we're a long way from "normal." Student-athletes need to be flexible and remain focused on their goals to succeed. Keeping your mind clear and sharp will help, and some ways to do that include meditation, visualization, and mental imagery. Use apps like 10% Happier or Simple Habit that offer daily meditations and mindfulness techniques, or check out our meditation and mindfulness blog! 

With all these effects, it will be difficult to fully transition back into the regular lifestyle of an athlete. In that case, go watch our podcast with NBA trainer, Graham Betchart, who will provide his insights on how to get back into the sports life mentally.  

Works Cited

“COVID-19 & Sports: How the Pandemic Affects Young Athletes.” University of Maryland Medical Center,

Maslen, Paige. “The Social and Academic Benefits of Team Sports.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 29 Dec. 2015,

“The Impact of COVID-19 on Sport, Physical Activity and Well-Being and Its Effects on Social Development | DISD.” United Nations, United Nations,


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